Mentoring – Austin Techstars

Today, we talk Austin Techstars mentoring.

Big Red Car here on a truly gorgeous Texas day. On Earth as it is in Texas, y’all. Texas being Austin By God Texas.

It’s 45F headed to 65F. I love these crisp mornings and warm afternoons.

So, today we talk mentoring, in particular Austin Techstars mentoring.

The Boss has been a mentor with Austin Techstars for some time and has enjoyed it thoroughly.

Confidentiality

One of the rules of mentoring is that everything is confidential. So, I will not be discussing names or companies, but speaking in confidential generalities.

Ground rules.

Austin Techstars

Austin Techstars is a class outfit. They have moved into a swanky new facility at the foot of the Congress Avenue bridge, located underneath Yeti world headquarters, and adjacent to the Hyatt hotel. It is right on the Town Lake jogging trail and  within walking distance of a slew of good restaurants.

The space is grand with towering high ceilings, tall glass which floods the space with light, a bank of conference rooms, and a kitchen. There are enough tables for a battalion of startup folks to collaborate. Extremely well done.

The people who run it — Amos Goldfarb is the honcho — are crackerjack. If I were starting a company, I would try to hire the young lady who runs the mentoring. She is extraordinary.

Mentoring

When you arrive for your first contact with about a dozen teams of startup founders, you are assigned to a conference room and have twenty minute seances with each team. Very interesting to meet that many entrepreneurs at one time.

The objective is to see if there is a fit between the teams and the mentor. I liked three teams, in particular. One contacted me immediately to work with them.

The mix

The mix of companies is quite diverse. If I have the numbers right, the winning teams are drawn from almost a thousand applicants, so there is a lot of talent from which to choose.

The business focus is from blockchain to robotics to eCommerce to basic services to SaaS to real estate to healthcare to food. A diverse mix.

Everything is a combination of more than one element of entrepreneurial zeal meaning that a basic service may be tied in with a web based delivery system. Nothing too startling, but there are no one trick ponies.

There were a lot of companies from the Carolinas. There must be something in the water at North Carolina State University.

About half of the founders were women. Could be off by one or two, but I was struck by how many were women. Extraordinary women to boot. There was an incredibly impressive two PhD women team. Bravo!

The people seem to be a little older than earlier classes. I see this in everything I do these days. The entrepreneurs are waiting a little longer. Not until they are 50, but not 19 either. There was one older, seasoned entrepreneur.

Some of these companies are very early – pre-seed. Others are there to learn how to scale. Some of the ones who only need to scale are already enjoying substantial revenue. I almost wonder why they are there, but they will learn great things and they will scale with confidence.

Why?

One question I often get is why do I do this? It is an easy question to answer.

One of the things I get from Techstars is exposure to a network of entrepreneurial zeal. I am often surprised to see how well my personal network stacks up with the people — mentors, angel investors, staff, entrepreneurs — I meet through Techstars.

Most of my Wisdom of the Campfire clients are startups which have some traction or funding when they come to me. These Austin Techstars companies are more raw and earlier. It is a good, complementary mix.

One of the things I also am reminded is how different and difficult it is for a first time CEO/founder a long way from home.

With my involvement with Techstars, I have probably been exposed to more than a hundred startups in the last five years. There is a lot that rubs off.

When you finish working with a company and they are thrust into Deal Day, you feel like you have sent your child to college. Of the companies I have worked with only one has closed up shop. That was a huge learning experience for all involved and that founder will be back again — not necessarily to Techstars — with another company one day. His idea didn’t work, but he learned how to found a company.

So, dear reader, there you have it. These accelerators and incubators like Austin Techstars are the real deal. They make the startup tech scene in Austin what it is today – vibrant, exciting, growing.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car. Have a great week.